DANVERS — There’s a target on Johnny Thomas’ back this fall; a bull’s-eye as big as the blue or white number one that’s stretched across his shoulder pads.
Every defense that lines up across from St. John’s Prep wants to tackle Thomas. They want to hit him, jump on him and then hit him again, trying everything they can to wear him down.
It’s the same bull’s-eye Jordan Todman of Dartmouth High wore a few years ago, and Everett’s Diamond Ferri before that. Targets are a fact of life when you’re the best running back in the Bay State.
Players aren’t defined by labels. They’re defined by what they do between the stripes.
Saturday afternoon at Cronin Field, Thomas carried 31 times for 263 yards and three touchdowns and St. John’s scored 22 points in the fourth quarter of a 36-22 win over Brockton.
When the Eagles (1-1) needed points, they turned to Thomas. The Maryland recruit carried on nine of 10 plays on the Prep’s first two fourth quarter scoring drives. He capped both by bowling into the end zone as the Eagles turned a 16-14 hole into a 30-16 lead in a matter of minutes.
Imagine how it feels to get tackled 28 times; to have a tough, hard hitting team like Brockton chase you around all afternoon intent on making you break.
“I feel good,” Thomas said after the Eagles wrapped up what he called a “do-or-die” game in terms of the playoffs. “I might be a little beat up, but that’s normal. It’s nothing.”
You can’t blame defenses for trying to hit Thomas. That’s football and has been since the beginning of time. Every linebacker thinks he’s the one that can make the star running back ordinary. From the Patriots getting physical with the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI right on down to the high school field, it’s how the game is played.